Posted on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.
In previous recaps, I have discussed the slower pace and subdued tone of season three, and several Slash readers have noticed the slight change as well. The initial episodes haven’t been subpar or boring, but for the non-diehards and for curious surfers, I imagine Walter White‘s broodiness and the larger-than-life, some have argued “cartoonish,” enigma of the Cousins is off-putting. But overall, the season’s kick-off is realistic. Figurative dust continues to settle after season two’s finale, and several main characters have used the shadow of tragedy to privately search and await a sign, an epiphany, or any justification to grasp at what he or she selfishly desires most.
Aptly titled, “Green Light,” the fourth episode shoves these characters’ ambitions and longings forward, and fans may have noticed the writers lacing the ep with the humor and foreshadowing that hooked us back when Walt still had hair/manners. After the jump, I’ll cease saying anything further about next week’s episode, but I will say it’s even better than “Green Light.” Season three’s slow burn is about to ignite into a highway to hell. (Yay?)
Join the Professionals, Jesse Pinkman.
Biggie didn’t include the tip when he recorded “10 Crack Commandments,” but if one chooses the criminal life, try to forgo getting an easily identifiable, giant tattoo inked on your wrist. In a single act that could haunt him for the rest of his life, Jesse Pinkman trades a baggie of virgin meth to a chubby cashier chick for a pack of cigs. The camera deliberately focuses on Jesse’s wrist tattoo, creating a sense of bad karma snaking all around him. That’s even before a cop walks into the convenient store and proceeds to stand directly behind him. Last season, Pinkman would have smoothly but nervously peaced out, but this season’s self-proclaimed “bad guy” version mischievously dares the girl to accept the offer. (There’s a subtle symbol of innocence lost by the show makers: a strip of bright light rests across the cashier’s shirt, in stark contrast to the dim lighting of Jesse and the store.)
Pinkman’s endorsement of meth to the cashier is so characteristically bro-tarded, I need to include it: “[Meth] makes everything maximum interesting. You get these really cold, sharp-like action dagger feelings. It’s awesome.” Only mildly interesting is that the ep gives us a name for the cashier girl—Cara—and taking into consideration her dazed attraction to Jesse at ep’s beginning and end, we think she will reappear.
Ultimately, however, it’s not the wrist tatt that puts Hank on Jesse’s trail—though he eagerly quizzes Cara about tattoos—it’s his “dreamy” blue eyes and his ’80s RV.
The wannabe badass swagger and carelessness Jesse displays in “Green Light” is matched by Walt’s. In previous seasons, the pair have typically remained careful when meeting in public. Sure, there was the instance in season two when Jesse popped up at Walt’s home in the RV, but he had just fallen into a shitter, ruined his hoodie, and was literally homeless. Here, Jesse waits unannounced outside Walt’s classroom in the parking lot. You expect Walt to shooo him; instead he shrugs off Jesse’s suggestion to take a drive and proceeds to A) grimace at the “cloudy” bag of meth Jesse made independently and B) claim all rights to his master recipe.
These guys. One of the great television duos. After being subjected to dark bouts of individual contemplation this season, seeing Jesse and Walt together and badgering each other again is a twisted joy. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul revel in the anticipated reunion of doom and in their characters’ blindness. And so much hypocrisy. Walt resumes his attacks on Jesse for being unprofessional…minutes after he’s placed on leave for trying to fuck the high school assistant principal. (In a hat tip to the aforementioned time when Pinkman was booted from his aunt’s house with nothing but a milkcrate of personal belongings, Jesse similarly finds Walt toting a pathetic box of academic afterthoughts to his car.)
Walt Makes His Own Rules
When a guy breaks federal laws for a long duration and doesn’t get caught, an illusion of undiluted freedom tends to seep quickly through the rules of common civility. My favorite scene of the season thus far is when Walt makes an aggressive move on Carmen, the assistant principal (shown above). Interpreting the scene as an act of desperation and revenge—since Walt knows Skyler is shagging Ted—is correct, but it’s Walt’s sense of primal entitlement here that illustrates the completed formation of his criminal mind.
Charges of sexual harassment? A dangerous flirtation with betraying his double-life and public moral standing? Those days of internally leading and fretting over a double life are essentially over. The only punishments Walt registers are death (which he’s beating) and incarceration (and he has Hank in close proximity to gauge this). The death of his wife and kids might pull him back into reality, but we are again privy to the continued pact between Gus and Mike the Cleaner, which leaves Walt oblivious to the blood thirsty plans of the Cousins and Tuco’s uncle.
When Walt fails—and I mean, fails—to shatter Ted’s office window with a potted plant at the Beneke HQ, that’s not really Walt, that’s Heisenberg. When Flynn wonders why donations to the ghetto cancer website he made for his father have slowed in recent days, Walt twirls his spoon into his breakfast, and sighs with double-meaning, “People lose interest.” And when he pesters Mike for installing and removing $800 bugs outside of his home—which should be a terrifying wake-up call that he’s out of his league—Walt nevertheless speaks to Mike like he would to an erring neighbor. Heisenberg, out for the morning paper, and loving it.
Mike, having glimpsed the scythe drawn by the Cousins on Walt’s street, says, “You know, Walter, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have someone watching your back,” and we see Walt flinch and take a sec to review Mike’s words not for their warning but for their value as sober criminal advice. The separation between Walt’s personal life and business life are irreversibly violated, not only by ghostly enemies but by his council and business partners. Beyond effrontery, does he take the privacy violations as a informative challenge to get on their level? He’s addicted to professionalism after all.
Gus—who eloquently shares with Mike here that he doesn’t “believe fear to be an effective motivator”—would have it no other way.
More characters, more drama
The writers are not letting Skyler (Anna Gunn) off easy this season. During her second (to our knowledge) scandalous sex session with Ted a reflection of her naked body gyrates in picture frames showing Ted’s smiling kids. Following Walter’s violent office incident, we also see her making awkward chit-chat with a Beneke employee at the printer, but given the stressful ordeal, she’s handling the drama better than I could have imagined. (That said, a Scarlet Letter joke she makes to Ted packs a deep tinge of self-loathing.) It’s unclear if Skyler is invested in a future with Ted and it’s odd how the character’s future seems as hopeless (and far more boring) as Walt’s no matter what. Note: She’s technically a millionaire.
Hank (Dean Norris) bails on El Paso aka the “Super Bowl” of the War on Drugs. Again. Did this surprise anyone? Back at his DEA office, he faces another tiring round of emasculating questions from his boss, and from his partner Steven, who’s more than ready to put a pin in the Heisenberg case. More unexpected than his decision out of fear to stay put is Hank’s intense request for Steven to transfer from the case and for him to remove his hand from his shoulder. The racist jokes between these guys have never disguised their alpha competitiveness, and if they split, Hank has the formidable and laughable task of tracking down 29 RVs.
Jane‘s father, Donald, apparently tried to kill himself with a self-inflicted gunshot, but was taken to a local hospital and survived. Walt hears the news over his car radio, and for a moment you think he will roll past a stoplight into traffic. But his frown is suddenly turned upside down when one of Gus’s thugs pulls up and throws him a bag of Jesse’s money.
Close-up of the stoplight, now green.
This episode was directed by Scott Winant, who was a member of the core creative team responsible for the series thirtysomething and My So-Called Life.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on AMC. For previous /Film episode recaps, click here.
Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila/gmail and followed on Twitter.